Someone I know is getting ready to leave her home of almost four decades. She knows that it is time to move into a new stage of life and the possibility that she will not be quite as independent as she has been until now. She is wrestling with grief and loss at the same time she is curious and excited about new possibilities. Sometimes she says aloud, “I have a choice. I can stay in the old place – literally – and gradually get more and more cut off. Or I can risk the new place and feel awkward and uncomfortable while I settle in.” And she admits, “Sometimes it feels like too much and I just want to retreat and pull the covers over my head!”
Another friend has just received the news that her beloved mother’s cancer has returned in a new and far more aggressive form. The treatment options are very limited, the time frame remaining to them seems very short. My friend, Sasha, is still busily calling doctors and spending hours on the web looking for a miracle. Meanwhile, her 89 year old mother, Elizabeth, doesn’t need a miracle, she needs Sasha’s attentive presence to accompany Elizabeth to a favorite restaurant, the new art installation at the Botanic Garden, and to drive her around to give some personal gifts to her closest friends.
A little over a decade ago, I sat with a parishioner on the last day of her life. She was dying of breast cancer, but she was doing it in her own way with her typical panache. Only two or three hours before she died, she looked at those of us gathered in her room and said with an irrepressible grin, “Well, I guess I can stop worrying about gum disease.”
Question: How free are you to take your life as it comes and celebrate what is rather than what you might want to have be? Or, let’s put it another way, How enslaved are you to familiar patterns or behaviors or desires or expectations?
This week I invite you to join me in thinking about the harvests of your life…while there is still a long growing season ahead of us and time to plant a few late crops. Do you plant the same emotional and spiritual crops every year?
Or if that is too abstract, Do you choose to take an advanced quilting class rather than a beginning pottery class? Do you do the same aerobic workout every day rather than be a total novice in a yoga class? Do you choose the same kind of friends? The same vacation destination? The same brand of running shoes? The same haircut?
I consider myself a risk-taker and most of those who know me would agree that I take more risks than the average person, but I found myself feeling unsettled this year because I was traveling during the time all the pansies were available in the garden centers for planting. I never got my planters of pansies and, to be honest, I haven’t fully accepted different flowers in those planters. The ivy and salvia and daisies look…well, wrong.
Maybe it is time for something in a different color, flavor, texture. Something outside the box, over the horizon, beyond the comfort zone. Some of us can fling ourselves forward without a single moment of wariness, but most of us need to take stock a little of where we are. So I invite you to join me in an exercise this week.
Find a full-length photograph of yourself, if possible, although a head and shoulders photo will do, if you can’t find a full-length one. Glue or tape it to a piece of card stock and then cut pictures from magazines or draw your own images of everything you can think of that enslaves you.
You may tie these to your photo with strings or glue or tape them to the card stock.
Spend a few minutes each day reflecting on your own chains of slavery and the habits of life that lead you deeper into prison, limiting your options.
Consider: Who or what inspires you to seek freedom from self-defeating behaviors? Who or what serves as a key to unlock those chains in your life?
Toward the end of the week, write a psalm or a prayer of liberation.
Then choose (or draw) one picture that represents a step into freedom. Maybe it is a place you want to see, a cuisine you want to try, a new haircut or color, a skill you want to develop.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2012, Immram Chara, LLC
(The photo of Nymans Tower is available as a card or print from my Etsy shop.)